Colorado Springs, Colo. — John Cook needed just one round to wipe away the disappointment of Sunday’s playoff loss at the Senior British Open.
On Thursday, Cook, 50, shot a 4-under 66 to take the early first-round lead at the 29th U.S. Senior Open
|After his 3-under 67, Eduardo Romero said whoever putts best this week on the taxing Broadmoor greens will win. (John Mummert/USGA)
at The Broadmoor. Cook led by a shot over Eduardo Romero and Morris Hatalsky, and three over Gary Hallberg, Bobby Wadkins and Mick Soli.
"I didn't like the way it finished last week at all," said Cook, who let a three-shot lead though 64 holes and a one-shot lead through 71 holes slip away, and then lost on the first sudden death playoff hole to Bruce Vaughan. "Second is not good.
"This week, had a nice practice round, and once I decided that this week has started now and it's a different week, different tournament, another major championship, you know, I can put that last week behind me until I get home next week."
Cook put it behind him very quickly, hitting a 6-iron approach at the 501-yard, par-4 10th — his first hole — to within 6 inches and making birdie. Cook then made the rest of the round very manageable by hitting all 14 fairways and 13 greens in regulation.
"A USGA championship, there's no mystery to what you have to do and that's put the ball in play," Cook said. "I struck the ball nicely. Didn’t take advantage of No. 9, kind of a quirky little hole. A couple awkward things happened.
"But I'm pretty happy with that. I made a couple very nice par putts, which you have to do. And I put the ball in play. I kept it underneath the hole for the most part. I had decent speed on the greens and I drove the ball in the fairway, which allowed me to hit a lot of greens. So 66 is very satisfying."
Apparently so is 67, as Romero, last year’s first-round leader, would attest.
"My mind is completely open now," said Romero, 54, who won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in July and then finished third at the Senior British Open last week. "I think after a couple months ago after my victory in New York, I'm a different guy.
"My game is completely different. My putter is working now. Last year my putter was not so good. but now it's working nice and I'm feeling a lot of confidence."
The morning wave featured five players at even-par 70, the most notable being Greg Norman, who contended until late on Sunday at the British Open before settling for a third-place tie two weeks ago. Last week, he tied for fifth at Royal Troon, venue of the Senior British Open.
"I played well," Norman said. "I just couldn't get it over the hump."
Cook said he and Norman commiserated on their recent near misses at the two Scottish majors during a Tuesday afternoon practice round. And also spoke to Tiger Woods at the beginning of the week.
"Had a great practice round day with Greg and Mark O'Meara, and they were nothing but supportive, and Greg and I kind of … I mean, his was the Open Championship, mine was the Senior Open Championship, but still, when you have it in your grasp like that, you have something a little bit in common. So it was a nice walk on Tuesday with these guys, and I got up and struck the ball nicely."
Amateur Bob Stephens, making his first U.S. Senior Open appearance and first U.S. Golf Association appearance of any kind, opened with a 1-over 71 in conditions that favored the morning players. Stephens was the low amateur in the clubhouse.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.